Equipping visitors with local knowledge

Japan is a very different market with unknown customs and business manners

Unique Japan Tours owners Darina and Masaki Nakagawa plan to expand their business in the Middle East and Australia

Unique Japan Tours owners Darina and Masaki Nakagawa plan to expand their business in the Middle East and Australia

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 01:00

Darina and Masaki Nakagawa own Unique Japan Tours an Irish company specialising in tours to Japan for clients worldwide. Their sister company, Japan Ireland Travel, brings Japanese tourists to Ireland on tailor-made private and group tours.

What sets your business apart from the competition? The internet is our main competitor but, even so, the inside and local information that you can get from any of our Japan Travel specialists is not available at the click of a button. We have (a largely Japanese) freelance staff and contracted guides in Dublin, London and Tokyo which means our knowledge is local, up to date and very useful when travelling to Japan which is perceived to be a mysterious destination.

We aim to make travel to Japan more efficient and enjoyable for our clients from both a financial and time perspective.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? During my masters at Smurfit Business School, I always remember our lecturers telling us to do our market research and never jump into anything too quickly. With this in mind, I spent the next four years doing the research while working for my family hotel full time.

Japan is a very different market with unknown customs and business manners. It takes a long time to feel comfortable there and a bit longer to see rewards. I believe that by spending the time doing my research and getting to know the market better (even though I lived there for four years), it is now starting to pay off eight years later.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? Allowing post-payment to a UK travel agent who went out of business before we got paid for tours that had already run.

And your major success to date? When I first set up the business, we focused only on the Irish market with our company Japan Ireland Travel. We brought Japanese tourists into Ireland and Irish people to Japan. In year three, I realised the holiday market to Japan was much greater. So in 2010 we rebranded the Japan holidays to Unique Japan Tours growing the overall business four-fold and now have customers from all over the world booking tours with us.

Who do you most admire in business and why? I grew up in a family business and can relate to anyone who has a family trying to make a go of a business. My parents, Chris and Thelma Slattery of the Station House Hotel in Co Meath, had an idea to transform an old train station into a country house hotel and this year celebrate 30 years in business. I really admire their positive outlook on life and clear vision for creating something different at the time, coupled with their dedication and passion.

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